Growing up a Packer fan in Illinois, I entrenched myself in the Bears and Packers rivalry. Trading insults became a common occurrence, but it was mostly friendly. Your Bears went 13-3 this season? But didn't my Packers beat you guys twice?
The bad blood between the other divisional enemy, the Minnesota Vikings, just wasn't there for me. It heightened a bit when Randy Moss "mooned" the fans during the 2004 playoffs. But the key parts of that team disbanded, and the Vikings went back to rebuilding.
Enter 2008. As the Vikings found their messiah in Adrian Peterson, many look for this year to be playoffs or bust.
The Packers have similar expectations. Despite losing Favre, the Packers return all of their starters except two.
Fresh blood is why this rivalry could reach new heights. Aaron Rodgers is finally getting his chance at replacing Brett Favre, and Jared Allen was brought in to provide a consistent pass rush for Minnesota.
And so this rivalry has become most relevant in the NFC North. It is the wide consensus these two are the premier teams in the division, and having the first game of the season against each other is huge.
This game could set the tone for the rest of season, and at the very least, give an early lead and momentum to the victor. Both teams know the importance of this game. Yet they are approaching it in very different ways.
Pat Williams has said he plans to trash-talk Aaron Rodgers the entire game. "We'll find out how much he can take," said Williams. "I'm going to try to crush all of 'em."
Okay, I'm cool with that. I always enjoy a little trash-talk. Seeing Warren Sapp and Favre yap at each other was always entertaining.
Newcomer Jared Allen also had a bit to say. "Hopefully, I can put my helmet square in the back of his spine. If I can do that and knock the ball loose, it'll be a good day."
Um, what? I'm going to bury my helmet in your spine? This is more than "we're going to beat you." This is "I want to hurt you."
The response by the Packers is that they'll be doing their talking on the field. Oh, and reason #945 I like Rodgers was his response to Allen's remarks. "He used to have a sweet mullet."
Despite the coolness of the Packers comments, fans know this is going to be an intense game. Because of how young these two teams are, this is just the beginning of a renewed rivalry.
Both teams have new quarterbacks that are unproven. Both defenses have the talent to take over a game.
This game has so many great match-ups to watch. Allen v. Chad Clifton. Ryan Grant v. the Vikings D-line. Peterson v. the Packer front seven. You can't really go wrong picking one; there is just so much star power between the two teams.
With the Bears an unknown factor for me this season, I'm excited to see Packers strengthen their competition with the Vikings. It makes the season that much more exciting and rewarding.
Fans love the big games, to see their team trade punches with their rival and emerge victorious. Nothing gives a more satisfactory feeling than beating not just a quality team, but an in-division rival.
The stage could not have set any better as the first game of the season, and in the spotlight of Monday Night. You want a vision of the NFC contenders for the next five years? You'll get it Monday.